Katherine Donnelly is our nutrition education coordinator. She works with our partners and many of our neighbors in the community, teaching them about nutritious food options for people dealing with strapped budgets. As part of National Nutrition Month, we asked Katherine to tell us about her background, her role here, and her involvement in helping people who are dealing with hunger and the nutrition issues that come along with food insecurity.
1. What does your role at the Food Bank entail?
The actual food! I get to make the recipes come to life in our awesome training kitchen with various community groups and provide samplings for staff and shopping partners. I choose foods and recipes to promote to our shopping partners based on our most current inventory. I also look for avenues in our programming to distribute all of our nutrition education materials. Additionally, I run our Partners for Wellness Grant Program which recognizes partners for prioritizing wellness foods from our inventory.
I also conduct monthly workshops for shopping partners. These courses teach partners and the neighbors they serve about healthy food selection, budgeting, cooking, AND growing. One partner, Jose Gonzalez, recently emailed after a workshop and said he walked away with a better appreciation for what it takes to put a healthy meal option together. “I learned how simple this can be, and I learned about the free and low-priced food options available through the food bank,” he said.
My role also involves attending some of our family markets and mobile markets to conduct cooking demonstrations and recipe demonstrations. Those in the community who attend these events to receive food can come to my table and learn about recipes they can make with the food they are getting. Many families have mentioned how these demonstrations have helped change the way they prepare food for dinners, school lunches and more. “I would never have put those ingredients together!” someone will say, or “I can’t wait to make this for my son tomorrow.”
I also take part in local food policy councils and working groups, and am currently developing a volunteer program to place culinary-minded volunteers in our communities during food distributions to promote wellness through home cooking using CAFB recipes.
2. What are you most proud of during your time here?
Getting people to like vegetables they swore they would not eat is always a bright spot, and establishing myself as a resource for our clients, partners and occasionally staff ????!
3. What are a couple of your favorite recipes that the Food Bank uses in its recipe card program and why?
Anything with lentils! Curried Lentils in the winter and Lemony Lentil Salad in the spring/summer.
I also love West African Sweet Potato Stew. I served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and peanut (groundnut) soup is one of the few things I remembered how to make. This stew recipe reminds me of those flavors and expands people’s perceptions of peanut butter beyond a PB&J. It is also the kind of recipe that allows you to use up canned, fresh, or frozen vegetables without having to strictly follow the recipe.
4. What is one of your favorite food-related memories in your life?
I have been fortunate to travel through school and work, so this could also be a very long list! One of the most powerful food experiences I have had was during a volunteering trip in Jordan with Habitat for Humanity. We worked on building the walls of a new home and each day we were provided lunch and dinner in the homes of community members. Every evening for dinner, our volunteer team had amazing food prepared by the Jordanian families we worked side by side with. Every meal ended with tea and long, insightful conversations. It was a few years ago now, but I remember those flavors very well!
5. What’s your favorite part of working at the CAFB?
Our mission and our team. Knowing you are spending the majority of your waking hours during the week to improve the lives of others is an honor. We have a great staff here and my job allows me to interact with every department as well as with the communities we serve on a daily basis. Not a bad way to make a living.